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Poverty is a situation in which a person is unable to meet his basic necessities of sustenance such as food, shelter and clothing. Causes of poverty are landlesness, unemployment, illiteracy, poor health/malnutrition, child labour, unabated growth of population, slow rate of economic growth and inequality of distribution of income are some of the major reasons for poverty in India. Some socio-cultural factors have also contributed to poverty.


The level of poverty is not the same in all the states of India. Across the world, the levels of poverty vary. Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin American countries are poor. Poverty has declined in countries like China due to rapid economic growth. The vicious cycle of poverty exists in India. Illiteracy and unemployment are some of the factors which lead to poverty and in turn, poverty significantly contributes to illiteracy and unemployment.


Poverty Line

In India, the poverty line is calculated considering factors such as minimum level of food requirement, education, medical requirements, clothing, etc. The formula for food requirement is based on the desired calorific requirement. The accepted average calorie requirement in India is 2400 calories per person per day in rural areas and 2100 calories per person per day in urban areas.

On the basis of these calculations, for the year 2000, the poverty line for a person was fixed at `328 per month for rural areas and `454 for the urban areas.


The World Bank uses a uniform standard for the poverty line, i.e., minimum availability of the equivalent of $1 per person per day.

These surveys in India are conducted by National Sample Survey Organisation, NSSO.

Poverty ratio in India is 26.1 per cent, in Karnataka it is 20 per cent. Poverty is still a serious problem in Odisha, Bihar, Assam, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh.


Measures to Alleviate Poverty

  1. National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) 2005: It provides 100 days assured employment every year to every rural household. One-third of the jobs would be reserved for women. In case a person does not get a job within 15 days of applying for one, an unemployment allowance will be guaranteed.
  2. National Food for Work Programme (NFWP) 2004: The rural poor who can earn wages by doing unskilled manual work can take part in this centrally sponsored scheme. Food grains are distributed free of cost to all states.
  3. Prime Minister Rozgar Yojana (PMRY) 1993: The aim of the programme is to create self-employment opportunities for educated unemployed youth in rural areas and small towns.
  4. Rural Employment Generation Programme (REGP) 1995.
  5. Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) 1999: Assists poor families above the poverty line by organising them into self-help groups through a mix of bank credit and government subsidy.
  6. Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (PMGY) 2000: Primary health, primary education, rural shelter, drinking water and rural electrification.
  7. Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) 2000: Poorest among the below poverty line (BPL) families are covered under the targeted public distribution system.
  8. Setting up more industries in urban and rural areas, improving the scenario in the agricultural areas by introducing reforms would promote economic growth.


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